Thursday, September 24, 2009

Jay-Z & Raekwon... My Thoughts

In the early to mid 90’s Hip Hop fans would have been ecstatic to be treated to new Jay-Z and Raekwon albums in the same month, let alone the same week. Today it generated a moderate amount of media attention and a whole lot of internet attention. Bloggers love the superstars and the legends. While Jay-Z may be a bit of both he showed the superstar side of himself a bit more than the legendary skills he took the thrown with. Raekwon on the other hand has never been one for big numbers or mainstream appeal. He has however always repped for the Wu Tang and maintained a loyal following – all of whom should be saluting the man right about now for delivering a suburb follow up album to an album that it could easily be said should have been left alone.

What makes Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Part 2 succeed is exactly where Blueprint 3 fails. While Raekwon didn’t go back to RZA entirely, he has the abbot doing what he does best – fitting the appropriate pieces where they should be. Getting Dilla to sound like vintage ’93 “Wu Tang Ain’t Nuthin to Fuck Wit” on the stunning “House of Flying Daggers” which also sees fellow W representers Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah and Method Man or Moss painting the perfect backdrop for Beanie Sigel to talk about the harsh reality of being a parent behind bars, the sound here is from the gutter. It’s the sound of despair. It’s the sound of the ghetto. Add the chilling narratives from Raekwon and company to tell the story and you have one haunting picture painted.

Jay-Z on the other hand says he is setting a trend, like the first Blueprint did. But what we get sounds more like Jay-Z following the trends he has normally been the leader of. Sure the Blueprint 3 is listenable. “Empire State of Mind” will be getting burn well into next year. But is this really what 2009 should be hearing from Jay-Z? Kingdom Come made more sense than this. His flow is still in tact, his lyrics are hit or miss but he never sounds comfortable. And why should he, this isn’t his lane. Let Kanye do ‘Ye and you do you. If 808s & Heartbreaks would have seen Mr. West rapping, I contend this is the album we would have been given.

The original Blueprint was heartfelt, from Jigga’s soul. Stories of his innocence being lost and triumphs claimed. Here it’s stories of grandeur and luxury without a shred of personality. This is the rich Shawn Carter doing what he has to do to keep the checks coming in and the masses (and bosses) happy. Where’s the passion Jay?

Raekwon has that hunger. He is frothing at the mouth to get heard. If you’ve been lucky enough to catch him solo or with the Clan over the last few years you have probably heard his rants towards the new generation and on the death of Hip Hop. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Part 2 is the soundtrack of history. It’s nostalgia for the reminiscent heads. It’s Hip Hop that will never be forgotten but may be on a path for under exposure.

Blueprint 3 has given Jay his 11th number one album and will certainly get him another platinum plaque. It’s going to provide him a sold out tour (I bought my ticket the day they went on sale) and probably a couple more number one hits. Only Built 4 Cuban Linx Part 2 debuted at number 5, not bad for Rae, and will probably struggle to go gold. He won’t see much of an increase of attendance at his shows and he won’t be getting any hits from this album. I guess that has always been the difference between these two. Raekwon’s art has always come first while, for Jay-Z, money has always been first.

If you never saw the ridiculous commercial made to hype this album, check it out over at Too Much Language!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sapient "Make Morphine: The Remixes"

For a crew with the rep Sandpeople have amassed over the years on their grind it seems crazy to think they are giving music away for free. Shouldn’t they be on some major indy by now? Truth is told in this day and age you can probably do just as good on your own – if you are willing to put in the work. Apparently they have been going so hard that they have too much music and decided to give away three albums for free over the next three months.

The first was given away on the first of this month (as the next two will be in the following two months) and is Sapient’s Make Morphine. Filled with a different producer for each track tackling an original from Sapient’s self produced Make More, it is a somewhat scattershot collection with a to be expected wide variety of styles. Some work well with Sapient’s own steez and some leave you craving the original.

While not completely in a new order, some songs are in new places but “Here” is still the opener and I would say DJ FlipFlop did his thing! Placing some building and ominous string stabs under Sapient’s opening verse that is oh so serious - the tone is set from the start. This isn’t for any toys, strictly some Hip Hop heads. If you love your beats knocking, your lyrics sharp and honest this is what you need in your life.

The guest verses were limited here but of course Sape had to get a couple of the crew on the mic. He and Ethic team up and let everyone know about what their little group is. Cheddy laces this remix with more electro tinged production giving their lyrics an added punch.

Elsewhere we see Rev. Shines produce a stellar remix of the single from the original album. “My Grind is Tech,” over the lush samples and dusty drums Shines dug up, feels perfect for Sapient to let people know all about his work ethic. If you are trying to get ahead in your field you will feel the honesty in this track and the Shines beat will keep your head nodding in agreement.

A trifecta of Oldominion beat makers get on here to mixed results. Smoke delivers an off kilter and lackluster remix of “The Way It Is.” Why couldn’t you just let that breakdown at two minutes be it? Mr. Hill does his thing on “Invested” to much better results utilizing a great sample and lacing great drums that compliment Sape’s flow perfectly. But why the fade out? There is almost two minutes more of the song on Make More.

Pale Soul is the third and final Oldominion associated producer and he had the honor to tackle what has to be one of the most personal songs Sapient has ever produced. Over what feels like some live drum playing, a subtle bass line and some great synths in the hook adding a great melody to Sapient’s sung chorus we are allowed to hear a love letter to his wife. The honesty and obvious love he has for her is a rare moment in rap and is something more artists should taking a chance with.

While preparing to review this collection of remixes I went back and heard Make More for the first time as well. At this point I’m probably more familiar with this collection of remixes and I’m not mad about that. Many of these remixes are great! A few aren’t so good and then you got the original’s to fall back on. When you play them next to each other it’s a different story. They really are two different albums; one produced by the creator of the rhymes and one with beats crafted to the words. They will both give you different insight into the artist that is Sapient.

Get it for FREE HERE!!!!!!

Bonus "My Grind is Tech (Original)" Video

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Saturday Spin: Dave Matthews Band "Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King"

In honor of the Dave Matthews Band long standing tradition to play at the Gorge this weekend, and given the fact that I was supposed to be there but work got in the way, I thought it only right to feature their latest album in this weeks installment of Saturday Spin.

While it seems like being a fan of the DMB crew went out of fashion with the 90s they have always delivered pop rock for their loyal following and made a name off stellar live shows as anyone who has seen them at the Gorge, or anywhere else, can attest. At this point in time they don’t have anything left to prove and deliver an impressive album filled with the sounds you know and love.

While the band has always played an integral roll in the live dynamic of the band, here on Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King it seems like they have upped their involvement in studio recordings as well. Featuring a fuller sound, that is composed of multiple tracks of guitars, drums, horns and other more subtle elements this album will have you nodding along and grooving unlike anything I’ve heard from them in the past.

Of course the guitar licks are the main draw next to Dave’s distinct voice and clever lyrics, but the heavy dose of brass instruments gives it a more upbeat and jam band like vibe. Far from the pop sensibilities they became known for earlier in the decade, they sound raw and alive here just enjoying the act of creating music as a group of like minded musicians with no one to please but themselves.

The aptly titled “Time Bomb” features a very mellow intro with a brief saxophone solo before fading out into Dave’s first verse. As the song progresses it builds up to an explosion of sound that wouldn’t be out of place on any hard rock album – I wouldn’t be surprised to hear about a mosh pit forming this weekend.

Of course it’s not a complete 180 for the band and anyone who has been a fan, new or old, will find enjoyment on this release. They touch on those sounds that made them famous, while at the same time letting them evolve more naturally than they had in the years past. Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King may not lessen the supposed “played out” stigma attached to the Dave Matthews Band, but it will give all of us DMB fans more of what we had been hoping for.

Bonus Video!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Q & A With P Smoov

Last month my roommate, our friend Ryan and I made the decision to cruise into Seattle for an evening of debauchery courtesy of a pair of shows. We only made it to one them – I guess that tells you how quickly the antics began. The show we did catch was Fresh Espresso (You might remember a little review I ran a few weeks back?) and they killed it like they seem to be doing with ease these days.

After the set I got a chance to chop it up with one half of Fresh, P Smoov, via a ride home. Here is our ensuing conversation.

TML: Have you played at the Crocodile before?
P Smoov: Last week at this exact time. Well not this exact time but last week Mad Rad played with Head Like A Kite and Dyme Def and it was a ton of fun. It's actually my favorite Seattle club right now.

TML: Are you happy with the response to the album?
P SMOOV: I'm very, very happy. It's a good thing and I hope that the tunes live up to the expectations, live up to the praise. I really hope, just keep on burning. It's been a month since we've dropped the record and we've sold a thousand discs right now and that is a beautiful fucking thing to us. I just want it to keep going, keep getting huger, more out for stardom.

TML: What does Out For Stardom mean for you?
P SMOOV: Out For Stardom. It's like when you wake up in the morning your eyes shoot open and you are thinking about one fucking thing. You're thinking about out for stardom. You're thinking about what do I need to do, what are the seven steps that I need to fucking take this day to make myself bigger than I was when I woke up this morning. Like do I need to hang up 1000 posters, do I need to make a hot beat, do I need to call up Rik, meet up with Buffalo. It's just you are gonna take every single day and make one more step towards stardom and never stop working until you are there. That's what it means to me, cause we are hella serious about our craft right now.

TML: What's something new you've heard recently that has excited you?
P SMOOV: Musically in the town... I was fucking geeked to hear the Physics record. Maannn! High Society, from an Audio Engineer's stand point. I cut that on, that shit was so crisp and sonically open. Just clean. I don't know what they are doing over there but they got the sound right.

TML: You went to Full Sail for that education right? How was that for you?
P SMOOV: It was cool. What I liked about it was that it was not a school that taught you how to make good mixes; it was not a school that taught you how to make hot beats. It was a school that was like ‘yo this is what a compressor is, this is what this knob does, this is what a fader is, this is what an EQ is.’ It taught you the whole signal flow. It did not tell you how to mix right or well, it just taught you what every fucking knob on every fucking piece of gear does. They teach you all the rules so that if you want to break them you can break ‘em, if you wanna stick to ‘em, you just gotta figure out which ones to break and which ones to stick to. They did not try to force any ideas down my throat they just taught me what shit did and that is what I needed to know.

TML: You and Rik are both from Michigan, what do you think it is about Seattle that has made it the place to be for y'all?

P SMOOV: I think it's circumstantial. I think that two different people can move to the exact same block and one of them will hate it and one of them will love it. The day that I moved to Seattle I met Rik Rude. The third day I met Grieves and Type. Then I just kept meeting more and more people. Every day was a new adventure. I started a studio with the help of Grieves, Type and Kublakai right at first and just having a studio in Seattle I got to meet a lot of very interesting and very creative people that fed my highly energetic, creative soul. I like it here man. You walk around the streets and you can just get fed. You go home and your brain is bursting from taking like a 5 block walk. When I lived in Orlando I walked by a Best Buy, then a Target, a Fred Myer and then a used car dealership. When I walk around here I'm walking by some crazy ass shit so I like it. I feel like I'm very nourished by this community. But I want to get the fuck out of here at the same time.

TML: Where do you wanna go next?
P SMOOV: Everywhere, the whole world.

TML: You guys have any tour plans?

P SMOOV: We got some plans, nothing I can divulge yet. But we got some exciting plans going down.

TML: What's the status of the distribution for the album, where can people find it?
P SMOOV: On iTunes. The current status is that iTunes is taking their fucking sweet time on the digital certification process. If you would like to download it you can get it at, which is wack cause nobody goes to fucking But besides that buy it from a local indie record shop. Support the local music industry. Go out to Easy Street, purchase a record, meet the clerk, listen to some vinyl, look at the posters, go have an experience! Get the artwork, flip through the pages. I like it better that way anyway and I'm kinda glad iTunes is not cracking right now because whenever I tell somebody to go buy my record they be like 'oh I’ll get it on iTunes' and they'll forget about it the next day. Go to these shops and cop my shit and join me in my fun times.

TML: When the album dropped and it was selling out of stores, what did that do for your mind state?
P SMOOV: It felt good. Every artist that drops their record thinks their shit is gonna sell out. If you are gonna get up the balls to drop it you might as well think it's gonna sell out. So I was like ‘hell yeah of course we sold out, my shits hot!’ Like you want to be cocky, but at the same time you are like I'm so happy it's selling out right now. We were geeking. Rik was hitting me every day with the figures, he's like 'we made it on the Mayor's list!' He was searching us online and shit. It was hella funny. And it's still going, that's the best part, it wasn't a little first week buzz, it's still selling out every week and we have to find a car, like I did tonight, and drive over to these spots and drop off more discs and that is fucking cool.

TML: Are you listening to dubstep, follow that at all?
P SMOOV: My dude Darwin, he's the DJ for Mad Rad, and he keeps me posted on that. Man I'm such a slacker when it comes to listening to any music period. I just go to work, do shows and then go home and if I have a free second I'm gonna try to make a beat not try to sit down and listen to a record. And that's sad, that's how you kinda loose perspective.

TML: Your tracks sound like they got a hint of that sound.
Smoov: Really?

TML: I've been listening to a lot of dubstep and flying lotus/brainfeeder crew out of LA, if you know any of that?
P SMOOV: Hell yeah! Flying Lotus is my dude, I listen to a ton of that shit. He is like Dilla from the year 3020. It's just so over compressed, got this great swing, dusty.

[As I take the exit Smoov starts talking about their video shoot]

I saw some crazy shit today. We were shooting this video, and these dudes were just like they had the best camera, there was a lighting crew; a makeup crew, there was catering. Shit is crazy. The video steez is crazy right now.

TML: You are shooting at Chapel right?
Smoov: Yeah.

TML: When you are in the lab making a beat whether it's for a rapper, or for Mad Rad, or Fresh Espresso, do you look at it differently or is it just you start making something and someone will hear it and want it?
Smoov: I definitely used to. Sometimes I know a beat is for Mad Rad. Most of the time I don't know a beat is for Fresh Espresso. Rik just comes through and blesses shit, whatever he is feeling rapping on that day. When I make a Mad Rad beat, I'm like this is a Mad Rad beat right here. But Rik will pretty much rap on anything, like a commercial will come on TV and he'll start freestyling and you'll be like dog you just killed that shit.

TML: Is Fresh Espresso something we will be seeing continue in the future?
Smoov: It's not a one off. It's a legitimate experience and it's going to keep going. Cause I mean it's two sides to the same coin. It's like, I love love love dance music and when I lay down that Mad Rad shit all I'm thinking about is like dancing bodies and just making people think differently. At the same time I just love that neck cracking swing that Hip Hop gives you, that little stutter step that makes you wanna break your fucking neck.

TML: What was the first music you were hearing?
Smoov: The first bands I can remember super geeking out over was Radiohead, 7th grad just loving some Radiohead. LCD Soundsystem lately has just been making me crazy. Daft Punk, MGMT. The first shit though, my second cousin bought me my first rap cassette it was Coolio. [Laughs] That shit is so not legit. She was like ‘It was the first rap cassette I'd ever heard.’ That shit was Gangsta's Paradise. Motherfucking Coolio! And I played that cassette out, I knew every word to that whole Coolio tape. She was like ‘Peter you are gonna like this shit, it's called Rap music’ I was like ‘OK!’

TML: What do you think Seattle is missing right now?
Smoov: I don't think that Seattle music is missing anything, I think that Seattle fans need to catch up now cause they've been so used to having such horrible shit to listen to and now they just need to understand that if you go out to a show tonight at any of these clubs you are gonna dance your ass off and you are gonna have your mind blown. We are not that 5 years ago hip hop generation. We are not that ‘I'm hella emotional, put my hoody on and talk about some gloom.’ We want to smile at y'all, we want to dance, have sex with your younger sister. [Laughs] We are fun loving people.

TML: What should people take from you as an artist, when they see you as member of Mad Rad and also Fresh Espresso?
Smoov: In my opinion I think it adds validity to both groups. Having this one experience here and having it be very definite and driven experience and then having this totally opposite and very definite and very focused experience over here it makes you understand that experience a little bit better. When Fresh came out they were like 'I kinda get what he is going for on the Mad Rad shit' the same vice versa like 'oh and he is doing that Mad Rad shit too? That fucking crazy ass hipster fag shit, he's doing that shit? That coke head shit!' Fuck y'all, go to hell. [Screaming in the mic] Go to hell 206 Proof.

TML: What's next?
Smoov: What's next? Jupiter man. We want to own that shit. Trying to take out some real estate, gonna own the whole planet and just throw big parties.

TML: What is your favorite Hip Hop album of all time?
Smoov: I have a really, really good time listening to Donuts by J Dilla. Driving down the street, working, fucking my girl, cleaning up the house, I can just put Donuts on and have a good time. That doesn't mean it's my favorite Hip Hop album, it's just one that I'm gonna thoroughly enjoy in almost any environment. J Dilla's Donuts.

TML: What is your favorite drink?
Smoov: Whiskey and diet coke. I think I'm addicted to the fake sugar in diet coke. I can't stand regular coke, but you give me a diet coke I’m like this is candy.

[I inform him of the flask filled with Whiskey and coke in the door… What do you think happens?]

TML: Can you talk about getting into the lab with Sermon? Are we gonna hear the collaboration?
Smoov: He came to a Fresh Espresso show at Chop Suey. It was a really good night because we got to meet Erick, it was the first time I'd met Jake One, and I'm a big fan of his as well. They both came and said they enjoyed the show thoroughly and Erick was like 'come through, I like your style, I think you are fucking popping right now.' So I came through the lab, we put something together – it's a pretty fun song.

TML: Is there a P Smoov solo album in the works?

Smoov: There is Don't Sleep which is the production album. I have several solo cuts, but it's a heavily feature oriented album.

TML: When can we look for that?
Smoov: Either nine months from now or eighteen months from now because Out For Stardom is dropping every nine months. Not from now but from when Fresh came out, which was about a month ago.

TML: What's the other project?
Smoov: The new Mad Rad. Seven cuts in, maybe going on eight or nine, haven't counted recently.

TML: How's it fare next to White Gold?
Smoov: Oh man, in my opinion out of everything I've done, I know that the general population might disagree, but I don't think they actually will, it's the best shit I've ever done. The new Mad Rad is craziness.

And with that Smoov disappeared into Glitzerland to catch some Zzz’s before getting up early to continue the movie shoot. Out For Stardom indeed.